Tag: local control

Three Democratic candidates for Governor of Illinois who I won’t vote for in Democratic primary

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am currently serving a two-year term as an election judge in Vermilion County, Illinois, with the last currently-scheduled election of my term being the Spring 2018 primaries. This blog post is purely my opinion about a race that will be on the Democratic primary ballot in an election in which I may be called to serve as a poll worker, and is not, in any way, connected to my election judge duties.


I’m not going to publicly endorse a candidate in the 2018 bicentennial election for Governor of Illinois, although I will be a voter in the 2018 bicentennial Illinois Democratic primary, and there are three candidates who I will not be voting for in the primary, unless, of course, they end up being the only three candidates on the primary ballot.

J.B. Pritzker is probably the only Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial primary in Illinois who could probably outspend Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in the general election, but there’s a very possible chance that Pritzker won’t make it to the general election. One main reason why Pritzker could have trouble winning the Democratic nomination is that, in 2012, Pritzker publicly refused to support then-President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign well into the Republican primary campaign season that year. Even worse, Pritzker outright said that he wasn’t 100% supportive of the Democratic Party, and signaled that he was open to supporting far-right Republicans.

Christopher G. Kennedy is a member of the Kennedy political family, and he’s also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor here in Illinois. However, CGK had the gall to appear at a campaign event in downstate Illinois and proceed to support a major education funding proposal that would give Chicago-area politicians more control over downstate school districts:

Kennedy said he is opposed to funding kindergarten through high school public schools through property taxes.

“We need to get rid of that system. It’s a terrible system,” he said. “Every other state in the United States has figured that out. They pay for their schools at the state level and not through local property taxes and they have much better outcomes.”

Removing local control from K-12 education funding in Illinois would put all non-federal funding of public schools in the hands of a state government dominated by Chicago-area politicians. Needless to say, downstaters are not going to like CGK’s idea to put decisions regarding funding their community’s public schools in the hands of a Chicagoland-dominated state legislature.

Another candidate running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is Daniel Biss, a mathematician-turned-state senator serving the Evanston area in Cook County. Biss’s claim to political fame was supporting Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the unconstitutional state law that was designed to cut state public employee pension benefits in Illinois. While Illinois has a major pension funding crisis, SB1 was such a blatant violation of the Illinois Constitution’s provision prohibiting cutting earned pension benefits, even right-wing Republican state supreme court justices like Rita Garman ruled that SB1 was unconstitutional.

The other two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination that I’m aware of are Ameya Pawar, a Chicago City Council member, and Bob Daiber, a farmer and regional school superintendent from Madison County. I’m not going to tell anyone which of those two I’m going to vote for, but I’ve already made up my mind.

Bruce Rauner launches war on local government in Illinois

As reported by WTTW-TV, the PBS-affiliated public television station in Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) has officially proposed prohibiting the creation of new local governments (cities, villages, etc.) in Illinois and allowing for the elimination of local governments via referendum:

Today, Gov. Rauner introduced a plan to reduce the number of local governments. He says it will save taxpayers billions of dollars every year, but some lawmakers say his plan has little chance of getting done.

[…]

The recommendations include:

  • A moratorium on any new units of government
  • Giving voters the ability to, via referendum, decide to eliminate or dissolve units of (government)
  • Eliminating the prevailing wage on union projects, which would allow for lower wages
  • Limiting collective bargaining for local government employees

As you can tell, two of those four proposals (specifically, the latter two of the above proposals) are clearly aimed at driving down wages in Illinois and stripping workers of their rights, which makes Illinois’s already broken economy even worse. Regarding the other two, one of them (the moratorium on new local governments) is clearly undemocratic, since I strongly believe that voters should have the right to create local governments, and the other one (allowing voters to eliminate or merge local governments via referendum) is something I would be open to supporting as stand-alone legislation (but not as part of a package proposal), depending on how it would actually work. While Rauner and his ilk think that suburban municipalities and townships in the Chicago area would be most likely to be consolidated or eliminated, the fact of the matter is that most consolidation of local government would take place downstate.

Not only is Bruce Rauner trying to undermine local control in Illinois, he’s also using his push to undermine local control to sneak in an anti-worker and anti-middle class agenda.

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

Wisconsin Republicans pass awful state budget, and how legislators should handle criticism of their legislative proposals

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed the most awful state budget in American political history in a 52-46 vote, and the budget is currently on Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker’s desk.

When I say that the Wisconsin budget that the Republicans passed is the most awful state budget in American political history, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the cold hard truth. The Wisconsin budget, among many other things, demonizes the working poor in Wisconsin by replacing the words “living wage” with the words “minimum wage” in state statutes, fast-tracks an expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline in Wisconsin and Illinois that will be even bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline would be, cuts funding to public K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin, effectively prohibits Wisconsin wineries from hosting weddings, and gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele even more unchecked power to sell off public property in Wisconsin’s largest county to his political cronies. This budget does a lot to pander to far-right voters that Scott Walker is trying to win over in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and does virtually nothing to benefit the people of Wisconsin in any way. You can read press releases from Democratic Wisconsin State Representatives Melissa Sargent of Madison, Dianne Hesselbein of Middleton, Amanda Stuck of Appleton, LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee, and Andy Jorgensen of Milton, as well as from Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, at the links in this sentence.

However, prior to the Republicans in the Assembly passing the state budget, Katrina Shankland, the Assistant Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Stevens Point, tried to amend the state budget to require that future proposals of non-fiscal policy measures in future state budgets get their own separate public hearing before a standing legislative committee (the Republicans rejected Shankland’s amendment). I criticized Shankland’s proposal, because it would not outright prohibit Walker or whoever else is Wisconsin Governor once Walker leaves office from proposing public policy in state budgets. Shankland responded to my criticism of her proposal via Twitter:

Anyone who holds political office, is running for public office, or is thinking about running for public office should take note of Shankland’s response to my criticism of her. She didn’t talk down to me, she didn’t belittle me, she didn’t attack me, and she didn’t try to change the subject. Instead, she directly addressed my criticism of her proposal by saying that she thinks that policy measures don’t belong in state budgets, and she defended her proposal by saying that the Republicans voted against allowing public hearings on policy proposals.

Katrina Shankland has been very respectful to me, even when I’ve disagreed with her, which isn’t often.

Corporate Democrat Chris Abele would represent Scott Walker’s third term in office if he were to run for and be elected Wisconsin Governor

Milwaukee County, Wisconsin Executive Chris Abele has been making public appearances outside of Milwaukee County in recent days. Recently, and to my knowledge, he’s appeared on a talk radio program in Madison, Wisconsin, and he’s also appeared at a Democratic Party picnic in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Both of these locations are 60-90 miles or so away from Milwaukee, if I’m not mistaken. This seems to be unusual for Abele to make appearances at events outside of Milwaukee County.

While there was some speculation that Abele may run for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin next year, Russ Feingold is already running in that race, and, for someone who is not known as a big-time fundraiser, Feingold has raised a ton of money for his campaign, so I’m guessing that Abele thinks that he doesn’t have a realistic path to victory in that race, although I could be wrong about that. I’m speculating that Abele may want to run for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018, and, outside of a few social issues, Abele would pretty much represent Scott Walker’s third term in the Wisconsin governor’s mansion if he were to run for and be elected governor.

Before being elected the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county, Abele once threw fireworks at a neighbor’s house. Since being elected Milwaukee County Executive, Abele has:

  • Enacted Scott Walker-style austerity measures in Milwaukee County, which have hurt Milwaukee County’s economy
  • Has openly antagonized Democrats, progressives, and labor union members
  • Tried to get the Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature to prohibit counties from passing living wage ordinances designed to boost local economies
  • Actively supported corporate welfare for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks
  • Actively opposed efforts to allow Milwaukee County voters to vote in a non-binding referendum on whether or not they want to get rid of Walker/Abele-style big-money politics
  • Allied himself with Deanna Alexander, a far-right Milwaukee County Supervisor who has made overtly racist and sexist remarks about Democrats, women, and ethnic minorities
  • Spent large amounts of Milwaukee County taxpayers’ money on items like a large SUV for himself
  • Has repeatedly had his vetoes of progressive ideals overridden by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, a Milwaukee County employee and progressive patriot, has documented Chris Abele’s horrible track record as Milwaukee County Executive at his blog over the past few years.

Sadly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chris Abele’s right-wing record as the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county. When I say that Abele wouldn’t be significantly better as Wisconsin Governor than Scott Walker, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the truth. Hopefully, one or more actual progressives, or at least someone who believes that the government should serve the people and not big-money special interests, runs in the Democratic primary for Wisconsin Governor a little more than three years from now.

The special election that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin doesn’t want you to know about

There is absolutely nothing on the website or social media pages of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) that I have been able to find regarding an upcoming special election in the Waukesha-based 33rd State Senate District of Wisconsin, where Democratic candidate Sherryll Shaddock is running against Republican candidate Chris Kapenga.

While the DPW is trying to ignore the fact that there’s an election scheduled to take place on July 21st, Sherryll Shaddock is the Democratic nominee in an upcoming state senate special election in Wisconsin. Shaddock is running against Chris Kapenga, who, as a state representative, tried to work with corporate Democrats like Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele to prevent Wisconsin counties from enacting living wage ordinances in order to boost their economies. Shaddock, on the other hand, supports fully funding public education, restoring Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government, protecting Wisconsin’s environment, allowing women to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health, and protecting local control over matters that are best left to local governments to deal with.

While it would be glorious if Shaddock were to win election to the Wisconsin State Senate, she doesn’t need to win the election in order to secure a moral victory for her party. Given how wildly unpopular Republicans have become in Wisconsin in recent months, and given that the 33rd Senate District is about 20 percentage points more Republican than Wisconsin as a whole is, if Shaddock were to secure at least 35% of the vote, then Democrats and progressives in Wisconsin can easily make the case that the Republican agenda is very unpopular in Wisconsin.

I strongly encourage voters in the 33rd Senate District of Wisconsin to show up at the polls on July 21st and vote for Sherryll Shaddock for Wisconsin State Senate.

Wisconsin Republicans and corporate Democrats attack a successful business

A large number of Republicans and twelve corporate Democrats in the Wisconsin State Legislature have decided to target a successful Wisconsin business: Union Cab of Madison Cooperative.

The Wisconsin State Legislature is on track to pass legislation, Wisconsin Senate Bill 106 (SB106), or, as I like to call it, the Julie Lassa-Cory Mason Bill to Revoke Local Control on Taxicab and Ridesharing Services, that would allow ridesharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to operate statewide in Wisconsin with very few regulations. Ridesharing companies allow people who drive automobiles to offer rides to those who pay the ridesharing fee for a particular trip, usually via a mobile phone application that both the driver and the passengers are required to have.

These ridesharing companies engage in predatory practices that screw over customers, workers, and taxpayers. While I could write a 100,000-character blog post about the negative aspects of ridesharing companies, I’ll mention three of them in this blog post. First off, ridesharing companies screw over customers by raising their rates by using dynamic pricing, which is also called surge pricing. Surge pricing allows the ridesharing companies to raise their rates when their computer algorithms tell them that traffic is heavy, demand for rides is high, or something else that their algorithms factor in, such as, in at least one documented instance, a terrorist attack, allow them to raise their rates. Secondly, ridesharing companies screw over workers by taking a sizable chunk of the money that the drivers collect from offering rides. In some instances, ridesharing drivers are effectively paid a negative salary (i.e., effectively charged money to work) because the portion of the ridesharing fee that the driver keeps is less than the vehicle-related costs of the trip. Furthermore, ridesharing companies are a burden to taxpayers for two main reasons. First, taxpayers will end up on the hook for accidents involving ridesharing drivers who don’t have commercial automobile insurance. Second, there will be tons of lawsuits over liability claims over crashes involving ridesharing drivers, resulting in court cases that clog up the justice system and result in more taxpayer money being spent on trials.

However, the main reason why I oppose the Lassa-Mason Bill is because it’s clearly designed to take away local control from Wisconsin’s second-largest city, Madison, in regards to taxicab regulation. Furthermore, I highly suspect that this is part of a coordinated attack to put a successful business, Union Cab of Madison Cooperative, out of business for purely political reasons, something which I strongly oppose. Also, I strongly believe that any Democratic elected official who supports legislation that allows companies like Uber and Lyft to operate with very few regulations is effectively a traitor to the progressives who vote them into office, and I would have no problem supporting progressive-minded primary challengers to corporate Democrats who support the Lassa-Mason Bill and/or other parts of the political agenda of Uber and other ridesharing companies.

Bruce Rauner’s plan to allow Illinois communities to enact employee wage and benefit theft zones would crater the Illinois economy

Bruce Rauner is touting right-wing lies about wages, unionization, and the economy in his crusade to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy the already weak economy in Illinois.

A key part of Rauner’s plan to bust unions in Illinois is to divide and conquer the state by allowing local communities in Illinois to vote on whether or not to enact local versions of so-called “right-to-work” laws, which allow non-union workers to benefit from wages, health insurance, retirement plans, safer working conditions, and other benefits of union contracts without either joining or paying dues to the union that negotiated the contracts. While Rauner would call areas in Illinois that vote to implement so-called “right-to-work” laws on a local basis “employee empowerment zones”, in reality, so-called “right-to-work” laws don’t empower employees, instead, they allow non-union employees to effectively steal wages and benefits from union-negotiated contracts. If Rauner were honest about his scheme to bust unions at the local level in Illinois, he’d call areas of the state that approved of his scheme “employee wage and benefit theft zones”, and I strongly encourage Illinois Democrats and progressives to refer to Rauner’s scheme as such.

Another claim that Rauner has made about his scheme to bust unions in Illinois at the local level is that, if one were to drive down wages and other costs that businesses incur, more jobs and businesses would be created. That’s simply not true. In fact, when wages are driven down and unions are busted, the overall economy craters because workers who lose pay and benefits as a result of lower wages and no union representation aren’t able to spend as much money on groceries, gasoline, household goods, and other types of goods and services. This results in businesses losing customers and revenue, and, in many cases, forced to close and leave their employees without a job, which starts a vicious cycle of economic loss. Additionally, very few people who couldn’t afford to start a new business with current labor costs would be able to afford to start a new business with lower labor costs, so any economic gains wouldn’t even come close to offsetting the massive economic loss that driving down wages and busting unions would cause.

Regarding the areas of Illinois that would likely enact employee wage and benefit theft zones if a state law allowing local areas of the state to do so were enacted, if the legislation allowed counties to make entire counties employee wage and benefit theft zones and allowed local municipalities (cities, towns, villages, and townships) to make their jurisdictions employee wage and benefit theft zones in counties that haven’t enacted an ordinance or passed a referendum to make the entire county an employee wage and benefit theft zone, most, if not all, of the collar counties and downstate counties would probably become employee wage and benefit theft zones, as well as a few suburban areas of Cook County. The amount of economic damage that this would cause would be massive, and this would badly divide the state.

The truth of the matter is that Bruce Rauner’s plan to allow local communities to enact employee wage and benefit theft zones here in Illinois would probably cause just as much economic damage as enacting a bill to turn the entire state into an employee wage and benefit theft zone (i.e., a statewide “right-to-work” bill) would.

How frac sand mining companies are buying influence at the local level in Wisconsin

In the small cities of Blair, Wisconsin and Independence, Wisconsin, which have fewer than 3,000 people combined and are both located in Trempealeau County in the west-central part of the state, frac sand mining companies are getting around a county-issued temporary moratorium on sand mining, which serves an even more dangerous industry of fracking for oil and natural gas, by asking the two cities, which have weaker regulations on sand mining that supercedes the county’s regulations within the borders of the respective cities, to annex mining sites.

In the case of Blair, a sand mining company is literally bribing local officials into annexing their mining site into the city:

Sometimes there’s cash upfront. One company offered $1.5 million to the City of Blair — population 1,379, plus two mines — if the city annexed another site.

Cities like Blair and Independence also offer more-permissive rules for mines than the county. “We let them work 24 hours, ‘round the clock, you see, where the county don’t,” says Blair’s mayor, Ardell Knutson. Rules around noise can also be less strict.

This is not simply frac sand mining companies getting creative. This is outright bribery of local elected officials to annex sand mining sites into municipalities that have weaker regulations than the county or town (as townships are known as in Wisconsin) regulations that the mining sites. This flagrant corruption is putting the health and quality of life of many Wisconsinites at risk, as sand mining sites that operate continuously make it difficult, if not impossible, for nearby residents to sleep in their own homes, and sand mining sites put workers and nearby residents at risk of contracting silicosis, a breathing disorder caused by inhaling silica dust.

I’d like to thank James Rowen of the Wisconsin progressive blog The Political Environment for bringing this to my attention.

Wisconsin public education takeover public hearing turns into total farce, Republicans in full damage control mode

The Wisconsin State Assembly education committee, chaired by Republican State Representative Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac, held a public hearing today on 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), a proposed “school accountability” bill that isn’t actually a school accountability bill, but rather a bill to shame, takeover, and privatize public schools in Wisconsin.

The original bill that was brought to the public hearing was so atrocious, the public hearing turned into a total farce and the Republicans that control the committee have gone into full damage control mode. I’ll let the tweets from The Progressive magazine columnist and Madison Common Council candidate Rebecca Kemble and the author of the progressive blog Wisconsin Soapbox, who have been livetweeting today’s public hearing, speak for themselves:

…and that was just the first hour or so of the 11 1/2 hour public hearing.

To summarize all of that, Jeremy Theisfeldt and his fellow Republicans brought the bill to the public hearing and was quickly criticized by Democrats over horrible provisions in the bill and the bill not having a fiscal note despite the bill having a significant fiscal impact on local school districts in Wisconsin. That forced the Theisfeldt to remove a provision from the bill that would have authorized a state panel that would have had the power to take over public schools in Wisconsin and give them to millionaire charter school operators, as well as some of the other more atrocious provisions of the bill, without scheduling a second public hearing for the modified bill. That forced Theisfeldt to go into total damage control mode as he was attacked by both Republican (Dean Knudson of Hudson) and Democratic (Sondy Pope of Verona and Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee) state representatives, with Sinicki pointing out that the modified bill would still allow for public schools in Wisconsin to be taken over by the state and given to millionaire charter school operators. Theisfeldt comes across as a guy who is way over his head and is making a total fool of himself.

In my nearly four years as a political blogger, this public hearing on Wisconsin AB1 has been the single biggest farce I’ve read about.